Las Vegas native and 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch was honored Wednesday night at the annual Mel Larson Night of Champions at Rain in the Palms Casino Resort. All proceeds from the dinner benefitted the Las Vegas chapter of Speedway Children's Charities. This was the fifth year for the event in which a community member is recognized for his contributions to motorsports.
Born in Las Vegas in 1978, Kurt began racing Dwarf Cars in the area at age 14. He won the Nevada Dwarf Car championship in 1995 and his scored his first stock car title at what now is the Bullring at LVMS in 1996.
The rising star was on his way. He graduated to the NASCAR Southwest Series in 1998 and earned rookie-of-the-year honors. In 1999, he became the youngest driver to win the NASCAR Southwest Tour points championship.
Kurt caught the eye of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner Jack Roush in 2000 and was tapped to drive for him in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, where he won four events and finished second in points. He also made his debut in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series that year, running seven races for Roush.
In 2002, Kurt won four Sprint Cup Series races and finished third in points. The hometown hero won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in 2004 and was greeted by thousands of adoring fans at a special ceremony at the Fremont Street Experience.
Today Kurt drives the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing.
Previous Mel Larson Night of Champions honorees include: Mel Larson, Dr. Dale Carrison (LVMS medical director and University Medical Center's chairman of emergency medicine), NHRA Pro Stock championship team owner Ken Black and automotive legend Carroll Shelby.
The speedway also recognized its 2009 season champions at its drag-racing facility - The Strip at LVMS - and its 3/8-mile oval, the Bullring.